The African Rice

Oryza glaberrima Steud.

Rice is one of the world’s most important staple crops. It’s a staple for billions of people worldwide (more than half the world’s population), especially in Asia. There are only two species of cultivated rice in the world, the African rice, Oryza glaberrima , grown in West and Central Africa, and the Asian rice,  Oryza sativa L., grown worldwide. The genus Oryza comprises about 20 wild species, distributed throughout the tropics and subtropics.

The African Rice

Photo Courtesy of Sven Teschke, Wikimedia Commons

The African rice was domesticated 2-3,000 years ago in West Africa. It’s wild ancestor is called Oryza barthii.

It is mostly grown in West and Central Africa. It is also grown in the Islands of Pemba and Zanzibar (Tanzania) and occasionally cultivated in Brazil, Guyana, El Salvador and Panama.

It’s only grown for local consumption and is not traded internationally. It is superior to Asian rice in it’s content of B vitamin, thiamin and Iron

The African rice has several distinct advantages:

  • The plants have luxurious wide leaves that shade out weeds
  • The species is more resistant than its Asian counterpart, to several diseases and pests.
  • The African rice is better at tolerating flooding, iron toxicity, infertile soils, severe climatic conditions, and human neglect.
  • Some African rice cultivars mature faster than Asian types, making them important as emergency food, during drought.

The African rice has certain negative characteristics compared to the Asian rice, O. sativa:

  • The seed scatters easily,
  • The grain is brittle and difficult to mill,
  • and, most importantly, the yields are much lower.

Current Situation of African Rice

For over 30 years it has been predicted that African rice would disappear under the pressure of widespread introduction of improved cultivars of Oryza sativa, but this has not happened.

It’s estimated that African rice is grown in less than 20% of the total area allocated to rice in West Africa.

Large scale farmers mostly grow Asian rice and small scale farmer prefer the African rice for taste, culinary properties and ability to withstand flooding and tolerate poor soil conditions. (PROTA4U)

African rice is only grown for local consumption. it’s  not traded internationally.


African rice is superior to Asian rice in it’s content of B vitamin, thiamin and Iron


PROTA4U Article on Oryza glaberrima (African Rice)

Author: Liz

I love everything food: eating, cooking, baking and travelling. I also love photography and nature.

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